Hoof Prints on My Heart

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I’ve spent over 30 years around and with horses. Sometimes that has been in a professional environment. Sometimes that has been in a more backyard experience. Many times, horses have been a way to compete and perform or to teach and train. More recently, though, horses have become partners in ministry.

I’ve met, worked with, and loved many a horse in that journey. Some taught me patience and to ask better questions. Some made me a better rider and taught me to jump higher. Some helped me develop responsibility and the value of hard work. Some have helped me develop nerves of steel and face my fears. Some have made me question my sanity. Some have let me cry in their mane and whoop with joy. Some have let me feel the wind in my face as I raced across a pasture. Some have shared the warmth of the sun and good conversation on a slow trail. Some have developed my understanding of science and care. Some have given me injuries and hard lessons learned, and all have taught me more about life, myself, and my relationship with Jesus.

At Bright Side, we are blessed to take on horses that can no longer continue in their previous job, need some love and care, need a new opportunity, and/or need hope and change. Often times, this means the horses we take in are older, so I often tease that we run a geriatric community.  While that is just a friendly joke, the reality is that 4 out of our 5 horses are 16 or older, two of them are 26 and 30 years old, and they require lots of careful monitoring of their health and care. Yep, you did read two of those numbers correctly: 26 years old and 30 years old. Your next question might be this, then: How long do horses live? Horses, on average, live to their late 20’s or early 30’s. There are certainly plenty of examples of horses living into their mid to late 30’s (and even some into the 40’s), but that’s not the average.

And, which one is our 30 year old? That would be who we call Lexi. In her previous homes, she was called Fudge and Lexus Jewells. She’s had a full life with people who loved her dearly and moments of being with a horse trader. I’ve never met a horse who loves people and loves to soak in moments with kids the way Lexi does. She impressed me from the moment I met her, and she apparently won Alex’s heart too, as he can barely stand to have her out of his sight.

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We have been so blessed to have her in our herd and working with the kids and teens that come to the ranch. This year has been really rough for her, though. Ever since coming out of the winter in January and February, it has been a struggle to keep her weight in a healthy range. We’ve worked with our vet to cover all sorts of potential issues, such as treating for ulcers, running blood work, checking fecals, working on her teeth, changing feed and supplements, changing her hay, soaking her feed, and adding in an additional third meal in her schedule. We’ve done everything that’s been recommended and then some. The blood work and fecals were run twice, and everything has come back clear both times. As I’ve been told by the vet, it’s all connected with her age and that it’s time for retirement. He also cautioned me that there are other complications that can come with her advanced age, such as heart attacks and strokes.

While we are certainly willing to retire Lexi so that she doesn’t burn more calories than she is taking in, I know she will miss some of the extra attention and the kids will miss being able to choose her. She’s also been the go-to for first time sessions and interactions, but that will now be limited to grooming.

I’ve tried to remain objective through this whole process, and it’s helped that I’ve been tasked with something to do for her. But, now, there’s not much on my to-do list for Lexi other than continue with the feeding instructions we have and have everyone love on her. My heart grieves already what is eventually to come, not only for the loss of her but also what that loss will do to poor Alex (who loves her so dearly).

Alex and Lexi only met June 30th in 2015 (the night prior to coming to the ranch as the very first horses to Bright Side), but if you have seen them together, it’s like they have been BFF’s their whole lives.

There are no major decisions being made right now other than to retire Lexi. However, it’s a struggle emotionally for me on many levels. In part, I wish and wonder and second guess what else I can do for her (even though I know we’ve done all we can). I ache over the lack of her presence in regular sessions and the potential loss of her presence in the future. And, I’ve simply gotten attached and don’t want to let go.

Lexi’s time at the ranch has been brief in comparison to the full life she has lived, but she has left hoof prints on my heart and the hearts of many others. We will love her and provide for her throughout however long or short her days at Bright Side may be.

If you would like to help with the care, feeding, and medical costs for Lexi, please do so here. Thank you for helping us care for the herd!